Kuwait: Yemeni journalist Hamza Al-Hammadi arrested and at risk of deportation
On 08 February 2020, security personnel from the General Directorate of Residence and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) in Kuwait arrested Hamza Al-Hammadi, a human rights defender and journalist from Yemen. He had just finished a speech at a symposium organised by the Gulf Development Forum during its 40th annual meeting held in Kuwait between 07 and 08 February 2020 under the title, "Human Rights and Civil Society in the Gulf Cooperation Council Countries".
Al-Hammadi's speech was about, "Civil Society Working in the Field of Human Rights in the Arab Gulf". Reliable local sources reported that he was arrested after his speech and is now being held in the administrative deportation prison, where he may face imminent deportation.
The GDRFA is a department of the Ministry of the Interior, and in 2018 its administration was transferred from the nationality sector to the criminal security sector, giving it the power to detain violators of the residence law who are awaiting deportation. Herein lies the danger of Al-Hammadi's detention in the administrative deportation prison, which often deports inmates within three days after a deportation order is issued, with no authority to stop the deportation except by order from the Minister of Interior.
Al-Hammadi, who completed his BSc. degree in public relations and advertising in the Faculty of Information at the University of Sanaa, is the technical officer of the Sana'a Center for Strategic Studies, which states on its website that he worked as a project coordinator at the Kuwait Society for Human Rights. He also worked as a graphic and website designer. He volunteered with a number of civil society organisations in Yemen and worked as a trainer on how to use electronic tools and social networks in social work service, investigative journalism and advocacy campaigns.
Al-Hammadi was working and living in Kuwait. The Kuwait Society for Human Rights (KSHR) has stated in an undated post that the contract with Al-Hammadi ended on 01 July 2018 and that his arrest was "due to his absence and leaving the position at the company he works for, which is a private company working in the field of contracting."
According to information made available to the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), Al-Hammadi left his job at KSHR and found a new job with a salary that is three times higher. Then, when he moved to his new job, his original sponsor, the Chairman of the Board of KSHR, Khalid Al-Hamidi, lodged a complaint against him, accusing him of absence from work.
However, GCHR believes that the timing of Al-Hammadi's arrest and subsequent detention indicates that the motive for his arbitrary arrest is his participation in the Gulf Development Forum symposium and his speech about human rights in the region. GCHR calls on the KSHR to provide all forms of support and protection to Al-Hammadi, to ensure his release from detention and continued ability to work in Kuwait, and to help guarantee all his civil and human rights.
GCHR also calls on the authorities in Kuwait to ensure, in all circumstances, that human rights defenders, including journalists and bloggers, are able to carry out their legitimate work in the field of human rights without fear of punishment, and free from all restrictions. This includes judicial harassment.
The authorities must respect the freedom of migrant workers to choose the appropriate job, and to change sponsorship freely if they find a better job, especially if the original job is underpaid.